Category Archives: ecological

zeroHouse

A search over a coffee, starting from Pam’s link (here) led me to zeroHouse.

Now this may be hitting a lot of boxes on the zero list, may be an architects vision or dream, but to call eco (as in ‘eco’ =’home’) and a place to live?

Does this primary school Lego construction have a soul – ie a spiritual dimension. Is it at all aligned to nature – it actually looks as though it has flown in to the location and cant wait to be off again. And just imagine a society, a neighbourhood or development of these. Or even, gulp, an eco-city.

And on the current theme here of usability – has anyone lived in one of these I wonder and feedback comments to designers, or indeed feedforward experiences to the next iterative design.

Saying all that this would be a good design to have within the Second Life International Eco Code Park so visitors can move around, experience its ‘feel’ if only virtually and leave comments on their ‘experience’ (click here to enter into the Park)

responsible sourcing accreditation to BS6001?

Will 6001 join the lexicon of standards for our sector, along with 9001, 14001, 18001 (with apologies to others missed!)

Understanding the ripple effect of a facility in use or in construction is increasingly important within both client and supply organisations reputation, ethical standing and overall CSR, (Corporate Social Responsibility). Industry investors are watching such organisational behaviours with increased interested as demonstrated on CSR Wire web pages and discussions.

BRE Global have recently launched a draft ‘framework’ standard BS6001 for responsible sourcing management (RSM) of construction products that intends to address the sustainability, ie social, economic and environmental aspects of materials, from raw source, through use and maintenance to recycling and disposal.

It will be a standard against which organisations or products would be certified.

Its purpose is to support the responsible sourcing management credits within BREEAM, as a stand alone standard or one would assume to assess any RSM requirements within Code for Sustainable Homes, I guess the Code for Non Domestic Buildings (when that emerges) and other sustainability codes and standards.

I would hope the final standard will get the nomenclature addressed and see this as a ‘built environment‘ standard and not just a ‘construction‘ one (even facilities management has an equal duty and obligation to source responsibly !)  I also hope that joined up thinking brings this into the new EU Facilities Management standards in development.

The draft standard contains a scoring system for assessment against the maturity of a number of sustainability themes. It could for example be used now, even in draft form, as a self assessment or supplier assessment to gauge an organisations position, as a snap shot,  on responsible sourcing. (Although some facilitated guidance or support to help understand and fully understand some of the concepts would probably be required)

A welcome addition to the standards family?  BS6001 is based as you would expect on ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and other existing standards.  I do question whether 9001 is still strong enough as the basis for such standards – given the cosmetic changes planned for this year.

On the social responsibility side – will the standard start to address the soil, soul and society elements of sustainability, and the wider ecological footprint?  Making reference to the UN Global Compact will certainly help address social justice.

The standard is open to public consultation until May 2nd.  I cannot see any dates for introduction of the standard.

An introduction and copy of the standard is available for download.

Responsible sourcing is an ethos of supply chain management and product stewardship and encompasses the social, economic and environmental impacts of construction products over their whole life. It is a holistic approach to managing the activities associated with the point at which a material is mined or harvested in its raw state, through manufacture and processing, through use, reuse and recycling, until its final disposal as waste with no further value.

sustainable connectivity

A new look for isite with a new image on the top banner(*). I like this design as it includes a RSS button – to get isite delivered to your desktop, and a search facility to search back through isite items.

But a little more too. After reflection on this blogs contents and direction, I have slightly amended the purpose of isite.

Yes it will continue to be a news views and comments blog for the built environment, poking here and there when things dont seem quite right or dubious, or indeed covered with greenwash. It will continue to be a voice to the online world for the Lancashire Best Practice Construction Club and to a lesser degree the CKE, and will continue to focus on collaborative working, integrated working, facilities management, futures and improvement towards excellence. The emerging web2.0 or even 3.0, and I include second life here, is an important theme that links and enables allot of what we, what I do, so will remain a key element of the posts and comments.

isite is also of course the outlet to the world for my business – fairsnape.  (the name was taken from the local hill in the Forest of Bowland visible from my base here)

However, more importantly I see isite starting to look at connectivity with the natural environment. A number of activities I have been involved with lately has made me realise we may be where we are today because we have lost, and struggling to regain connectivity with our impact on ecology in its widest sense.

What does this mean? – Ecological footprints more than carbon footprints – as John Muir said when we tug on a single thing in nature we find it attached to everything else . – natural materials rather than harmful – renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, community based FM rather than endless target driven fm, about responsible sourcing rather than supply chain bullying, all putting a new direction to CSR.

I have long used the triptych of fit for people purpose and planet (before it became enshrined into the triple bottom line concept I like to think) . It is what Patrick Geddes would call folk, work and place, nearly a century ago, and reading Satish Kumar over the weekend – he described our modern trinity as needing soil, soul and society. Soil for the environment. soul for a spiritual dimension and society for justice.

Kumar a great walker – now based at the Schumacher college in Dartmoor, that incidentally run courses on Zen and Construction, talks about never trusting ideas that you never worked through whilst walking. “when you walk you are connected with nature, when in a car or a building your are disconnected, you walk to connect yourself”.

A while ago I started a benchmark walking programme to do just this – getting workshops and learning sharing events out of a training room or hotel into the countryside. With a loose agenda that emerges to deal with peoples real improvement needs, benchmarkwalks allows real learning and sharing, I likened it to doing business on a golf course – but this is business improving on a walk.

So all this as a preamble to a new thread for isite – connectivity – one I hope that will give it more scope, depth and importance as we address the sustainability issues, the soil, soul and society issues facing the built environment.

(* taken at Beacon Fell, Forest of Bowland, Lancashire recently – a location for many benchmarkwalks)

sustainability – barriers or opportunities?

As expected a number of mixed and potentially confusing announcements made at Eco Build question progress towards zero carbon construction, question the defintion of carbon zero while setting more targets for (non domestic) zero carbon construction by 2020.

Founder of the UK Green Building Council, Dr David Strong is right to question the focus on carbon reductions – we need to remember the ecological footprint as well. Unfortunately the carbon footprint is easier to comprehend, and to address that the wider ecological aspects. Yet we are heading for a skewed future if we do not. See the One Planet Living principles for an approach that encompasses carbon zero through to health and happiness as an example of the wider issues.

Perhaps Simon McWhirter, WWF-UK, a member of the newly announced carbon industry task group headed by Barratts boss Mark Clare to redefine zero carbon will remind this group (once again) of the wider issues?

I also see the barrier of cost being raised again in achieving these targets –“a cost premium for anywhere between 5% to 30% extra”. Now isnt that the estimated cost of waste in our industry, or lost time through uncollaboartive working ?

At a recent best practice club presentation I used a green scale – from grey to bright green – to help illustrate different views to the environmental concerns. Delegates agreed the UK built environment is stuck as accommodationalists – only just turning green from grey  defined as ‘do as little as possible, be led by legislation , but no need to change core behaviour’

I cant help but think of the green build movement in the USA that is just getting on and doing it – talking about achievements and benefits of being green (including cost benefits) rather than talking about definitions, barriers, problems and more legislation to ‘help us’.

(Take a look at the buzz and the near evangelical speeches and presentations at the recent USGBC Green-build Conference – still on line for viewing ! – where it was reported that LEED Platinum accredited buildings produce 45% improvement in energy usage – its not anecdotal any more we have the proof said USGBC CEO)

Thanks to fellow blogger Phil Clarke and Building for news from Ecobuild – nearly as good as online !

Eco … build, homes, villages and towns – pah… greenwash?

James Meikle’s article in yesterdays guardian paints a picture of growing concerns and gaps in the thinking behind the current push towards ‘eco‘ villages and towns.

As a flagship for the huge number of homes to be built and eco towns to be created, Northstowe, if the Guardian report is correct has problems:

As the town takes shape, en route to at least a 20% – and hopefully higher – supply of renewable energy, combined heat and power plants could prove more efficient and cost effective than solar gadgets and micro generation on separate houses.

Sounds great, but the debate is our on micro generation – but only 20% renewable? !!!

More recently, Cooper decided that Northstowe must not be delayed by having to meet zero-carbon standards subsequently imposed for all new houses from 2016.

Ah ha – explains the 20% but if we can do it as an eco-challenge at Hanham Hall in Bristol – why not here?

James too makes the point on the level expected on the homes:

To start with, … private homes will only be at level 3 on the code for sustainable homes, producing 25% lower emissions than legally required so far, but no more revolutionary than homes already being built on some smaller developments. The requirement for affordable homes will be slightly higher at code level 4 – a 44% improvement on minimum standards, but again not as tough as might have been expected, given the experimentation already under way elsewhere.

In my opinion this is not flagship or even eco…

David Bard, a senior councillor on South Cambridgeshire council, which, with the county council, will consider the Northstowe plans in the next few months, says: ” I am not sure that anyone actually knows what is meant by an ‘ecotown’, let alone a ‘prototype ecotown’.

Time to rethink? Time to get back to basics?

Time to recall where Eco comes from – as it is a prefix used in most ‘sustainable ‘ iniatives at the present. Eco-this eco-that and eco-other is indeed the zetigeist of the moment. Eco is of course an abreviation of ecological – and as a prefix used to describe things realted to ecological issues. Except it isnt today, at least in its use for eco homes and villages etc.

Eco villages stem back to 1960’s community living, alternative technologies, living off grid with alternative lifestyles. Are todays eco villages just a clever greenwashing of of that ideal? (A greenwash that probably covers all 6 of the greenwash sins!)

Where is the community, social enterprise, regeneration, ecological diversity protection thinking in these developments?

It would be very interesting to see calculations for the ecological footprint of eco-developments such as Hanham Hall and Northstowe and how they would compare to other or non eco developments. There is much focus on carbon footprints, understandably as its tangible and easy to understand – but if we use the prefix eco – lets focus on the ecological footprint as well.

I have posted on the LEED ND (neighbourhood development) scheme here a few times – it would be fascinating to assess Hanham Hall or Northstowe against this standard. Just looking at the evidence required for submission for this standard would (hopefully) cause a rethink, or dropping of the prefix Eco ! for example:

  • Smart Location and Linkage, (smart location means ecological consideration!)
  • Neighborhood Pattern and Design,
  • Green Construction and Technology and
  • Innovative Design

Any BREEAM assessors, any LEED ND assessors out there looking for a challenge? Anyone out there willing to fund a project to ‘test’ the claims being made? These projects underway now will shape our future housing construction, living, and social well being.

Why do I hear the Pete Seger song when I think of eco-towns

Little boxes on the hill side, little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,
more

So time for a rethink and real innovation – as Henry Ford famously said “If I asked people what they really wanted they would have asked for faster horses” Will we still get little boxes ?

And quietly the transition-towns movement gains pace …. but thats another post !